Adventures in Baseball Archeology: the Negro Leagues, Latin American baseball, J-ball, the minors, the 19th century, and other hidden, overlooked, or unknown corners of baseball history...with occasional forays into other sports.
José Muñoz with the 1910 Stars of Cuba, sporting number “5”
on his sleeve (the Stars were one of the earliest professional teams to use
After writing about Dick Redding’s no-hitter in 1912,
apparently the first no-hitter in what we call “Negro league” history, I
realized that there was an even earlier no-hitter that has gone completely
unnoticed. It wasn’t strictly
speaking in Negro league play: it occurred on October 30, 1904, in Havana’s
Almendares Park. Habana’s José
Muñoz blanked the Cuban X Giants, allowing no hits, while his opposite number,
Emmett Bowman, was wild, walking six and hitting four batters. It was the last game of the X Giants’
series in Havana, and they went out on a sour note, losing 12 to 0.
This feat has fallen between the cracks historically, as it
was not in an actual Cuban League game, but it still deserves recognition.
For whatever reason the scrap of typescript attached to the photo says (inaccurately) that the team existed in 1912. Actually it was 1910. Here are the correct names of the players and officials in the photo (so far as I know):
I’m not sure why Marcelino Guerra is called “Sueya” (a nickname, maybe?). As you can see, this photograph includes every player who appeared for the Stars of Cuba against other top black teams that year, with the sole exception of Juliân “Fallanca” Pérez. Incidentally, this is the only photo I’ve seen of José Muñoz actually in a baseball uniform; he’s in other team pictures, but always wearing a suit and tie.
Missing from this photo are Eustaquio Pedroso and Allyn McAllister, and present are William Niesen, Armando Cabañas, and Guerra, which may give us a clue as to when it was taken.
Allyn McAllister was the founder of the Stars of Cuba. A bicycle shop proprietor from Chicago, McAllister entered the ranks of baseball promoters in the fall of 1909 when he organized a major league all-star team to play the Cuban League teams in Havana. It was a genuine all-star team, too, featuring Three Finger Brown, Addie Joss, Sherry Magee, and Fred Merkle, although they only managed two wins in five games against Habana and Almendares.
While in Cuba, McAllister decided to move in on Abel Linares’s turf, signing up Cuban players to tour the U.S. the following summer. He plucked Linares’s prize asset, José Méndez, the biggest star in Cuban baseball, and some other good players, including José Muñoz and Eustaquio Pedroso, giving him Cuba’s top three pitchers.
Here is a detail from a passenger list for the S.S. Mascotte, arriving in Tampa on May 4, 1910, showing eight of the Stars of Cuba players travelling together:
It was after the team got to Chicago that the trouble started. At some point Pedroso had defected to Linares’s Cuban Stars. McAllister then sued Pedroso, contending that he had signed an exclusive contract with the Stars of Cuba. In early June, a judge threw out McAllister’s suit on the grounds that the contract lacked “mutuality”—that is, Pedroso was required to play ball only for McAllister during 1910, but McAllister was not required to retain or pay Pedroso at all. The story was picked up by the AP and popped up in newspapers all over the country, often with headlines that implied the decision invalidated all baseball contracts. Francis Richter of Sporting Life felt it necessary to intervene, quoting the AP story and adding their own commentary about how the case had little bearing on organized baseball:
(Sporting Life, June 11, 1910, p. 4)
With Pedroso lost, the Stars of Cuba were weakened a little; and the problems didn’t stop there. The team started cancelling dates in early July, causing some frustration among the local clubs. One W. C. Niesen, manager of the Gunthers club, took a vocal role against McAllister.
(Chicago Tribune, July 9, 1910, p. 10)
Starting on July 10 the Stars of Cuba rebelled against McAllister; they were now operating “under new management,” as the Chicago Examiner (July 20) would later explain—which apparently meant W. C. Niesen and his allies. Their new handlers lined up a three-game series in mid-July between the Stars of Cuba and Linares’s Cuban Stars, with two of the games played at Artesian Park. The Stars of Cuba, fortified by the addition of Armando Cabañas and Marcelino Guerra from Cuba, won the first two games; the last, on July 14 at Artesian Park, saw a matchup of aces, with Pedroso of the Cuban Stars besting Méndez 3 to 2.
With Cabañas and Guerra on the roster and McAllister gone, we now have the cast of characters that appears in the team photo above; Niesen’s boycott of the team seems to have been aimed at wresting control of it from McAllister, and there he his in the team photo, along with “Jones,” presumably some partner of Niesen.
On July 19 the Chicago City League banned its clubs from playing “colored teams” (other than the Chicago Giants, who were league members, of course), a decision widely understood to be aimed at the two Cuban clubs. This was another item about local Chicago baseball that was picked up by the AP and printed in newspapers all over the country.
(Fort Worth Star-Telegram, July 19, 1910, p. 8)
This makes the fault lines in Chicago’s independent pro baseball scene that summer pretty clear, despite the forest of similar-sounding names (Cuban Stars, Stars of Cuba, Leland Giants, Leland’s Chicago Giants). Keep in mind that Niesen’s Gunthers were not members of the Chicago City League, and neither were Rube Foster’s Chicago Leland Giants. The previous winter, Foster had wrested control of the Leland Giants (and most of the team’s players) from eponymous founder Frank Leland. Leland, enjoined from using the name “Leland Giants,” then organized his own team, referred to (confusingly) as Leland’s Chicago Giants. Leland did convince the Chicago League to let him keep his team’s league franchise, thus the “new” Chicago Giants replaced the defending champion Leland Giants in the City League.
So on the one hand you had the Chicago City League, which included the city’s white semipro establishment, plus Frank Leland and his new Chicago Giants. On the other hand you had Rube Foster’s Leland Giants and William C. Niesen, now controlling the Stars of Cuba as well as the Gunthers. One assumes that Allyn McAllister was originally aligned with the Chicago League, so his ouster from the Stars of Cuba may have been a large part of the reason for the League’s ban on games with the Cubans. Abel Linares’s Cuban Stars of Havana, incidentally, played the Chicago Giants several times, but never once took the field against Foster’s Leland Giants, so they may have been more closely aligned with the City League crowd, despite their July games against Niesen’s Stars of Cuba.
On August 7 the Chicago Tribune reported that Allyn McAllister had obtained an injunction against the Stars of Cuba playing baseball under any management except his.
(Chicago Tribune, August 7, 1910, p. C2)
That day he showed up at Normal Park before a scheduled game between the Stars and Foster’s Leland Giants, flanked by three policemen and an interpreter. It did not exactly go according to plan:
(Chicago Examiner, August 8, 1910, p. 8)
The Stars went ahead and played the game, losing to Frank Wickware and the Lelands 8 to 6. A couple of days later they were hauled into court to explain themselves, but apparently the players (and, perhaps, Niesen) were able to reach some kind of settlement with McAllister:
(Chicago Tribune, August 11, 1910, p. 11)
(Chicago Examiner, August 12, 1910, p. 7)
A week or two after that the Stars of Cuba left for a series in Kansas City, Kansas, before returning to Chicago for some games against the Leland Giants. Apparently the Stars of Cuba broke up soon after; by September 14 the team’s star and player-manager, José Méndez, had left to join the Linares Cuban Stars on the east coast. As far as Allyn McAllister goes, this seems to have been the final chapter of his brief (and rather inglorious) career in baseball management.